Visiting Olympic National Park – Washington Coast

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While Alex and I were in Olympic National Park earlier this month, we knew we wanted to spend an early morning visiting the Washington Coast.

“Kam, you live 20 minutes from the beach, why would you want to go to the coast?” Because it’s not the same. So not the same.


Kam goes to the Washington Coast - Olympic National Park - Campfire Chic


Alex and I started out our first full day in the Washington Peninsula at 5:30 a.m. so we could drive from Port Angeles to Rialto Beach, a little over an hour away. After spending the morning at the beach, we had a hearty breakfast, visited the Hoh Rainforest (post coming)…and the call of the coast couldn’t be denied…we headed to Ruby Beach, one of the most popular parts of the coast to visit by National Park goers.


You will most likely need a car when you visit Olympic National Park, there isn’t an official shuttle service to take you to the various areas of the park and I’m not sure there is a regular transit service to take you to some of the more remote areas. Plan your trip accordingly and expect to spend plenty of time in your vehicle going to the various parts of the park…Some of the landmarks are over an hour and a half away from Port Angeles due to slow speed limits in some areas.


Most of these photos are from Rialto Beach. Ruby Beach was beautiful but with the number of people on the beach at that time, we weren’t able to get as many “blog-worthy” shots. I liked that Ruby Beach had some beautiful sea stacks and a TON of rock stacks/Cairns. There were also beautiful examples of large driftwood pieces – which can be very dangerous during high tide, so use extreme caution when visiting these locations.


Beach Stacks - Olympic National Park - Campfire Chic


Here’s the thing: Rialto Beach looks dreamy like that because it was so wet out! Not really rain, just a wetness that wouldn’t go away…and it was amazing.


We had the entire stretch of beach (from the parking lot to Split Rock) to ourselves. We did encounter a local man and his dog and he told us about the history of the area and recommended some books to us if we wanted to learn more about it, including The Good Rain by Timothy Egan.


Oh, and we were joined by three river otters who came down from the river and played in the surf as we walked back to our car. The otters swam with us and even stopped and started to come onto the shore to investigate us at one point. We stopped and made sure we were far enough back that they wouldn’t feel threatened. When we made it back to the parking lot, the otters were wrestling in the sand and having a good time. It was a¬†magical¬†experience.

Rialto Beach and Ruby Beach - Campfire Chic


Tips for visiting the coastal areas of Olympic National Park:

  • Schedule your visit around low tide so you can do a bit of tidepooling
  • Bring a rain jacket, even if the weather does not call for it
  • Be prepared to protect your camera — Rialto was super wet, like I mentioned earlier, so Alex only had his camera out for a little while. Most of these shots were taken using my iPhone, which was protected with this LifeProof case
  • Bring a snack – you are not close to towns and there are no concessions at these locations
  • Bring a map. The park rangers should have a free printout that will point out the areas you should avoid when the tide comes in. Use extreme caution when on the coast…when in doubt: play it safe


Have you visited the coastal areas of Olympic National Park?

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Kristin - My Life as a Teacup June 25, 2013, 7:19 am

    I’m just swept up in the dreaminess of this place :) The west coast always looks so stunning, so different from the other side of the country that I can’t help but wonder if we’re really part of the same country some times, haha. And otters? Aww!

    • Kam July 4, 2013, 4:44 pm

      You need to get over here, seriously! What is awesome is that the West Coast is different every 50-100 miles! It’s incredibly diverse and so beautiful in different ways.

      Otters. Seriously. Otters.

  • ADKinLA June 25, 2013, 8:15 am

    Awesome pics! Makes me want to go even MORE now! ;)

    • Kam July 4, 2013, 4:45 pm

      Even better, Pete? BACKPACKING on the coast. Yeah, BACKPACKING. We need to make this happen

  • Kristy June 25, 2013, 8:27 pm

    It looks beautiful there!

  • MargaretAnn June 26, 2013, 7:13 pm

    Oh, Kam! What a beautiful place you both shared. I absolutely LOVE the Olympic peninsula. My hubby and I discovered it in 2004. We flew out from Florida, rented a mini-SUV, crossed the Sound from Seattle, and proceeded to travel the entire coastal rim from Port Townsend to Astoria. Along the way we stopped at Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rainforest, and many, many beaches. (Oh, and we continued south to San Francisco!) It was fabulous. Your photos are beautiful. They really capture the quiet, calm majesty of the NW coast. So glad you enjoyed it!

    • Kam July 4, 2013, 4:48 pm

      That sounds like a fabulous trip! It makes me want to go back ASAP

  • Trina Curran July 1, 2013, 7:06 am

    It looks so beautiful there. That is one place we want to visit when we start travelling in the summers. And how fun that the otters stopped by to say hello!

    • Kam July 4, 2013, 4:48 pm

      Trina, you’ll love it!


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